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Is it really all just about economics? Issues of nationhood and welfare

Author: John Curtice

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This is the third in a set of briefings outlining initial results from the 2013 Scottish Social Attitudes survey. In the first of these entitled, ‘The Score at HalfTime: Trends in Support for Independence’ we argued that so far as voters are concerned, the economy remained the most influential issue in shaping their attitudes towards independence. Indeed, if anything that now seemed to be even more clearly the case than before.

But is that all that matters to voters? Are they simply just concerned about the economic consequences of their decision? After all, this is far from the only issue being discussed in the campaign. Much attention has, for example, been given to the question of the likely terms and conditions of an independent Scotland’s membership of the European Union. The SNP’s wish to see the removal of nuclear weapons from Scottish soil while still being a member of NATO has been an important talking point too. Meanwhile, on the one hand it has been argued that independent Scotland would be a more equal society that was more generous in its provision of welfare and public services, while on the other it has been argued that pooling risks and resources across the whole of the UK is the better way of creating a more socially just society.


In this briefing we examine attitudes towards two sets of these debates about the likely shape of an independent Scotland. First we consider some of those issues about which an independent state has to make a decision and a devolved one usually cannot do so – issues of nationhood ranging from who should be the country’s Head of State, what should be its currency and what international alliances it should seek to form. How far are people’s stances on these issues shaping their willingness to vote Yes or No? Second, we examine some of the arguments about equality and welfare. Do Scots feel that they should use their own taxes to pay for their own welfare, or do they seek to share their revenues and risks with the rest of the UK? And does the claim that Scotland has a more egalitarian, social democratic impulse have an appeal for voters in the independence debate?